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The Origin of the Tuxedo



Chances are you’ve worn a tuxedo to a wedding, prom, or other formal events. But are you familiar with the history of the black-tie? For over a century, men have attended formal affairs donning a familiar outfit, yet few of us know of its origins.

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 The British Empire

Even with the loss of the American colonies in the late 18th century, the British Empire continued to thrive. This economic dominance led to a thriving upper and middle class in the United Kingdom as families found themselves with more time for leisure, outdoor, and evening events. Men sought out more comfortable formal wear in lieu of the traditional dress.

 The earliest historical record of a tailless coat being worn with evening wear was in 1865 by the Prince of Wales. He continued his experimentation with formal apparel well into the 1880s. Around the same time, more accounts of tailless coats being worn by gentlemen started to appear. It is important to note what we now consider formal wear was considered informal at that time. Quickly men began to adopt the more informal design of what was soon to be called the tuxedo.

Arrival in America

In the fall of 1886, reports surfaced that men were forgoing their cumbersome dress coats for the more relaxed design of a short evening jacket. The most notable mention of the dress style came out of Tuxedo Park in New York. Tuxedo Park was a rural escape for New York’s wealthiest citizens. Society columns soon reported affluent young were casting aside traditional forms of dress for the informal design of a tailless dress coat combined with trousers and a vest. Initially, the tuxedo was frowned upon as a form of rebellion against the dress codes of the elite. Yet, in as little as two years, the tuxedo was adopted as suitable informal evening wear for the summer months.

Early Design

The tuxedo's early design consisted of a shortened dress coat adorned with minimal buttons and a shawl collar made of satin or silk. Similar to today’s dress standards, the jacket was combined with trousers made of similar material with a single satin or silk braid covering the seams. Pants were also uncuffed. A black low-cut waistcoat or cummerbund was also worn with a pleated white dress shirt. Accessories included a black silk tie, black dress socks, and black patent leather court shoes.

20th Century Adaptations

The tuxedo has changed little since its introduction in the late 19th century. During the 20th century, small alterations to the design and coloring took place. Following World War I, midnight blue became a trendy color variant for tuxedo design. Notched lapels, borrowed from the business jacket, were incorporated into the tuxedo design and a more relaxed vest to accompany the jacket. During the mid 20th century, multiple colors became popular for the design, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s when white versions of the tuxedo gained popularity. As the century came to an end, the more traditional black color once again returned. 

The Tuxedo Today

The tuxedo remains almost unchanged from its origins in the mid 18th century. This is in large part due to the tuxedo’s unique and eloquent design. In the future, the tuxedo is sure to remain popular for formal occasions.

 Buy4Less Tuxedo is a leading supplier of formal apparel. When you shop at Buy4Less Tuxedo, you are purchasing from a reputable dealer with over 20 years of experience. Whether you need to buy tuxedo shirts or a complete ensemble, our staff will work to ensure you are completely satisfied with your order. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.